It's a hard job this leading malarkey.
Last week Sean asked if I'd be in Zac's on Tuesday and if I could lead as he was away. I said I could and then he grinned and said, 'It's that part about loving your enemies.'
'Oh thank you very much!'
So I prepared and was quite pleased with the ideas and questions I'd come up with. Preparing always helps me to understand better so I like that bit. It's the actual leading the discussion that causes my problems.
With a lot of vulnerable and damaged people in Zac's it's no surprise that the idea of loving your enemies is a hard one to stomach. Even for reasonably undamaged people it's tricky. I had come to the conclusion that what's needed is the willingness to take the first step, even if that's just to say to God, 'I want to want to forgive and love,' and that repetition isn't a typing error. We might not yet have arrived at that place where we want to stop hating and we may need help to get past that before we can even begin to think about loving. But it's an openness to the idea that I think God wants to see in us.
But for some - or at least one - last night it was a case of, 'Well, I can't do that. I live in the real world.' And it was this attitude, repeatedly expressed and with added mumblings to a neighbour when not holding the floor, that exasperated me and made me 'shout' (speak loudly and crossly) and have to take a deep breath.
I thought, 'That's it. That person's going to be mad at me now and probably won't come again and it'll be my fault.' But fortunately I don't think my outburst was noticed by the person at whom it was directed - I am so loudly and explosively aggressive! - who was fine with me at the end.
How Sean manages to sit calmly and listen and respond gently and appropriately is an example for me. One I need to practise following. But I fear it will take an awful lot of practice.